Tips on Hiring and Working with a Book Cover Designer (And New Cover Reveal for Dreamlander!)

As writers, we know an eye-catching book cover is vital for captivating potential readers. Recently, I got to work with the talented team at Ebook Launch to update the cover of my portal fantasy Dreamlander. Today, I’m excited to share my experience and insights to help you find and collaborate with the right book cover designer.

First, a little background on this project. As many of you know, Dreamlander was published in December 2012 and has been easily the most popular of all my novels. So it seemed appropriate that for its 10-year anniversary, the book should get a little refresh! I’m incredibly happy with the results, and I hope you’ll love it too! To celebrate, I’m doing a paperback giveaway over on Instagram, so be sure to check that out as well.

Today, using my recent collaboration with Ebook Launch on Dreamlander as a case study, I’m going to walk you through the step-by-step process of hiring and working with a book cover designer. We’ll explore the process of finding the right designer, budgeting and pricing, preparing for the design process, and achieving an effective collaboration.

(Please note that the links throughout this post are affiliate links. I only participate in affiliations with products or services I personally use and love.)

Finding the Right Book Cover Designer

Finding the perfect book cover designer may seem daunting, which is why thorough research is essential to ensuring a successful match. Consider these key factors as you explore your options:

1. Review the Designer’s Portfolio

Reviewing a designer’s portfolio will give you insight into their range and versatility, as well as their style preferences. When I was searching for a designer for Dreamlander, Ebook Launch’s book cover portfolio immediately stood out, showcasing a variety of styles and genres that aligned with my vision.

You’ll want to find a designer whose style preferences match your own, ensuring a smoother collaboration and a cover design that reflects your story. Make sure the designer you choose offers examples of work in your genre and preferred style in their portfolio, and ask yourself whether their style complements your book’s genre and tone. If the answer is yes, you’re on the right track.

2. Examine Testimonials and Reviews

Check the designer’s testimonials and reviews from other authors. These provide valuable insights into the designer’s work ethic, communication style, and ability to deliver on time and within budget. Look for credible sources of reviews and affiliations with industry associations (e.g. like the Alliance of Independent Authors).

3. Evaluate Availability and Responsiveness

It’s vital to collaborate with a designer who is available to accommodate your book’s timeline and will promptly respond to your inquiries, revision requests, and other concerns. Before beginning the design process, confirm that your chosen designer can deliver both the cover design and any additional marketing materials in time for your book’s launch. When working on the cover for Dreamlander, the team  at Ebook Launch communicated with me solely via email which may not work for everyone; however, they offered timely updates and always addressed my questions and concerns, which made the entire process smooth and enjoyable.

4. Consider Pricing

When searching for the right book cover designer, one of the top factors is finding one that fits your allocated budget while still providing value. Amounts can vary significantly, so carefully compare costs and the value each designer offers, keeping in mind that pricing doesn’t always correlate with quality. Reedsy has quoted under $750 USD on average as the cost from the designers on their website.  Look for clear pricing on the designer’s website to avoid misunderstandings down the line. Don’t forget to budget for additional marketing materials (such as social media graphics or promotional banners) or paperback or audio book versions.

Working With Your Book Cover Designer

Once you’ve found the right designer, you will typically need to navigate a couple of stages of the book cover design process. These include submitting a detailed design brief, receiving and reviewing initial concepts, collaborating on revisions, and approving the final design. In this section, I’ll delve into each stage in more detail, using my personal experience working on the redesigned cover for Dreamlander. I’ve also provided a couple of tips for a successful collaboration at the end.

1. Submit a Detailed Design Brief

The first step in the book cover design process is providing a clear and detailed design brief, which will ensure your designer understands your vision and can create a cover that captures the essence of your book. Most of the book designers I’ve worked with ask you to fill out detailed forms, guiding you to share the information they’ll need from you. Below is some of what I submitted to Ebook Launch for them to work with:

Book Title: Dreamlander

Book Subtitle (optional): What if one day you woke up in the wrong world?

Author Name: K.M. Weiland

Genre: Portal Fantasy

Description of your book:

What if it were possible to live two very different lives in two separate worlds? What if the dreams we awaken from are the fading memories of that second life? What if one day we woke up in the wrong world?

Every night, a woman on a black warhorse gallops through the mist in Chris Redston’s dreams. Every night, she begs him not to come to her. Every night, she aims her rifle at his head and fires. The last thing Chris expects—or wants—is for this nightmare to be real. But when he wakes up in the world of his dreams, he has to choose between the likelihood that he’s gone insane or the possibility that he’s just been let in on the secret of the ages.

Only one person in a generation may cross the worlds. These chosen few are the Gifted, called from Earth into Lael to shape the epochs of history—and Chris is one of them. But before he figures that out, he accidentally endangers both worlds by resurrecting a vengeful prince intent on claiming the powers of the Gifted for himself. Together with a suspicious princess and a guilt-ridden Cherazii warrior, Chris must hurl himself into a battle to save a country from war, two worlds from annihilation, and himself from a dream come way too true.

Describe the key elements you want on your cover:

This is to be a redo for the cover of an already published book. You can see the original cover here: [Note to readers: this link no longer shows the old cover, just in case you were wondering.]

I’m wanting to update the cover into more a current style. Particularly, I’m interested in styles that evoke mood more than character. Rather than featuring a person on the cover, I would rather something more stylistic and artistic.

The book is a portal fantasy, in which the main character is someone from our world who enters a parallel medieval land that is the “world of dreams.” It’s epic fantasy, with lots of battles and swordplay, but also romance. The cover examples below show more of the style I’m wanting this time around.

I do really like the teal green color palette the existing cover has. I wouldn’t mind keeping it, but don’t want to limit creative options either.

Please provide links or examples of other covers you like:

These are more or less ranked in the order I like them:

Love the colors and overall aesthetic here:

The ethnicity of this cover would be inappropriate for my book, which has more of a Renaissance European aesthetic, but I love the colors, the font, and the pop of the central image:

The font work on this one is gorgeous, and I love the symbolism of the central image and how it interplays with the actual letters of the title:

This is probably a bit too simple for me, but it does show the basics of what I’m hoping for, which is emphasis on title and color with a strong background visual:

Love the color, emphasis on title, and the images that are background but still strong and evocative:

This one is unique and immediately catches my eye when browsing due to color and contrast:

Again, this one is perhaps a bit simplistic, but highlights the general style I want, with emphasis on color, central image, and strong title treatment:

Same as above:

Of all the “too simple” examples, I actually like this one the best:

2. Review Initial Concepts and Collaborate on Revisions

After you’ve submitted your design brief, the book cover designer will present you with initial concepts. In this instance, Ebook Launch reached out before designing the concepts to clarify the direction they wanted to try:

“I love the idea of featuring a galloping black horse and a framing mechanism of dreamy/wavy circles—like a ripple effect on water. The circles/ripples represent the time portal. The black horse would be visually striking, invokes action and works in both contemporary and medieval settings. Other imagery could come into play (a sword, a castle) but they would be more like background etchings. What are your thoughts on featuring a black horse?”

I agreed and, in combination with the original information that I submitted, they started the designs. Here were the original concepts presented to me for Dreamlander:

I decided the second concept was more in line with my vision. However, some elements didn’t quite come together as I had hoped. For instance, I thought the horse/sword graphic appeared too simplistic or even “cartoony” when viewed at a larger size, and somewhat fairy-tale-like in thumbnail size. I also felt that the water motif/portal seemed too separate from the background.

To address these concerns, I suggested exploring alternative central elements, such as a castle, and adding more intricacy to the design. I also requested changes to the title treatment and font for my name to maintain visual consistency across my books.

Remember, it’s crucial to provide clear and constructive feedback to your designer at this stage, so they can fine-tune the design and ensure it meets your expectations.

After some more discussions, I received several revised options:


3. Approve the Final Design

Finally, after collaborating on revisions, you will reach the point at which you are satisfied with the cover design. The final version of Dreamlander‘s gorgeous new cover looks like this:

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At this point, make sure to review the final design thoroughly, ensuring it meets your expectations and represents your book effectively. Once you’ve approved the final design, your designer will provide you with the necessary files for publishing your book, as well as adapt it to other files you may be needing. In this case, Ebook Launch also prepared print and audio versions for Dreamlander. (Click on the images below if you’d like to purchase either version.)

Final Tips for Successful Collaboration With Your Book Cover Designer

Navigating the book cover design process requires, first and foremost, a harmonious partnership between you and your designer. To ensure a successful collaboration, keep these essential tips in mind:

1. Maintain Open Communication. Create a supportive environment where both parties feel comfortable discussing their ideas and concerns.

2. Provide Constructive Feedback. Offer specific, actionable suggestions that will help your designer refine their work, while also acknowledging their strengths and accomplishments. (Remember the compliment sandwich!)

3. Stay Flexible and Open to the Designer’s Expertise. Remember they bring valuable experience and knowledge to the table. Be receptive to their insights and recommendations. By fostering a collaborative spirit, you’ll work together more effectively to bring your creative vision to life.

Finding and collaborating with the right book cover designer is a vital step in your book’s success. By researching designers, reviewing portfolios, considering pricing, and maintaining open communication, you can foster a fruitful partnership and create an eye-catching cover that captivates readers. Remember to be patient, diligent, and receptive to the designer’s expertise throughout the process.

I  hope my experience working on Dreamlander provides insights for your own book cover design journey. If you’re ready to create a captivating cover for your book, consider reaching out to Ebook Launch and exploring their services. Best of luck in your creative endeavors, and may your book cover design journey be a rewarding one! (And don’t forget to enter the paperback drawing on Instagram!)

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! Have you ever worked with a book cover designer? Tell me about your experiences!

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. Coolness! Those covers do look good, and as usual you walk us through the journey and make it a beautiful learning experience.

    Two things I’d like to add:

    Before studying a potential artist, study *cover art.* You don’t need professional knowledge, but you do want to look at the current art for your genre (and especially art that isn’t on the leading authors) enough to see the patterns on what’s being used now. That’s so you can double-check if an artist is making workable covers or just beautiful but unusable pictures. The most important thing for any cover is that the first glance the reader sees on a row of thumbnails or a shelf makes the book look like it belongs there.

    And, like you said, be flexible. Give the artist ideas, but then let them take the lead in coming up with the concepts that occur to them, and see how they do them justice. This backing off is one of the hardest parts of getting a cover, but it’s one of the most rewarding when you get back something you never thought of that So Works. (I’ve still got my *The High Road* on my desk right now, partly to remember that first moment I saw its cover.) Then you can ask them to back up or call for tweaks all you need — using that cover knowledge you learned — but don’t hem their first thoughts in.

    Asking for a cover is no small amount of work… and it’s so much more FUN.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, book cover design is always one of my favorite parts of the publishing process. It’s so much fun to see the essence of your book brought to life in a visual. And I totally agree about studying cover art.

  2. This was a very timely post for me! I just send out my first query to a designer this morning. Your new cover looks lovely!

  3. I have had good experiences with 99design contests. Multiple designers compete and you comment on each design and can do polls to get feedback from people on their preferred designs.

    Also, you get full rights to the design. I had a previous designer placing restrictions on how I could use the artwork, including attempting to limit the copies I could sell.

    I think it is also important to get the original photoshop files, so you can easily make simple changes yourself. With 99designs, there is a third party managing these kind of details and the artists don’t want to run afoul of their rules. Anyway, this service worked for me for two books. Pricing starts at $299.

    • The attempt to limit the copies you sell could be based on their licensing agreement for stock photos etc. (IIRC, many stock image services put a limit on how many times an image can be printed in their license).

      This highlights the need for good communication. If it’s important to have the right to print unlimited copies, that needs to be clarified upfront, and the designer can avoid stock image services which impose limits (such as by only using public domain images).

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I’ve worked with 99designs on logos a couple of times, with satisfactory results.

  4. Grace Clay says

    Your new cover art is lovely.

  5. AnneLouise Feeny says

    Your new cover is fantastic! It is as intriguing as it is beautiful. Thank you so much for guiding us through the process. Sometimes the problem is we can see it in our heads but we cannot translate it to the page, so your emphasis on providing specific feedback needs to be taken seriously. Much continued joy and success in all you do:-)

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      One trick I used this time around was mocking up some of my ideas in Midjourney. It helped me see what I *didn’t* like before asking the designer to put in the time on a dead-end concept. It also helped me communicate better what to him what I *did* want.

  6. Thanks for giving us a behind-the-scenes of how you collaborate with a book cover designer <3

  7. Colleen F Janik says

    What a great post! This subject really is so incredibly important, something I’ve thought about with books that I’ve picked up off the shelf and others that I will ignore. So important. I picked up a copy of The French Lieutenant’s Woman that features an actual photograph of some woman. I don’t like that cover at all. Years ago in talking to a new male acquaintance, learned that we both read the same fictional novel. The reason was interesting. The novel “When Harley Was One” carried two different covers. I picked up the one that featured art work of a child’s face. Very endearing to me as a teenager at the time. He showed me his copy and it featured a very sci-fi cover with a computer. That obviously appealed more to a different audience. We both read it all the way through and both liked it. I guess if you have a cover that attracts a wider audience, that’s the best.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I keep a Pinterest board of “Book Covers I Love,” which I add to whenever I run across something I love. Then when it’s time to think about my own covers, I can reference back to see what it was about those covers that initially drew me in.

  8. M.K. Daly says

    Excellent post and perfect timing! Thanks so much. Do you have ‘Tips for an author website’ also? Either by a pro or a basic DIY, primarily for book marketing.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I hired Varick Design many years ago and was extremely happy with the collab. I’m not sure if they’re still taking new clients though.

  9. I like this new cover, it’s more engaging to me than the old one. The man on the previous cover looked too “static.” I too probably would have started with a horse. Specifically a Frisian like the one in the crappy remake of “Clash of the Titans,” simply because the breed is so dramatic-looking. But the final new imagery exudes mystical enchantment, which sounds about right, and emphasizes the value of flexibility.

    As for me, in the past I have engaged a cover artist, but I’ve done my own cover design. For anyone else, here’s a few practical tips for if you have to hire a separate designer and artist. Assuming you are using either Photoshop or Affinity Photo (or some other program):

    1: Make sure the art is on a separate layer from the byline, title, and logo. You may want to repurpose some of those elements for other scenarios, e.g., use the cover art as a hero image for your website’s landing page. Ideally the artist and/or designer gives you a PSD file (or Affinity’s equivalent), which preserves the layers. A .jpg file will not preserve the separate layers, and can’t be readily altered.

    2: If you’re going to do your own cover design (separate from the art) make sure you save the original art file and work only with a copy.

    3. If you commission custom art (or buy stock art), account for book cover dimensions and resolution. For Amazon, the cover needs the resolution to be 2,560 pixels in height x 1,600 pixels in width. I believe this also works if someone is using a retina screen on an iDevice (or anything that uses HD quality).

    This resolution / dimension also works for a 6×9 cover if you have a print version. Remember that you can always re-size a file downward, but enlargements look terrible. Having a high-res file to start with allows options. And options are always good.

    Back to the OP — KM, I recall how much trouble the sequels gave you, so I hope that one day they come together in a satisfying way. In the meantime, best wishes with this re-launch.

  10. Matthus says

    I like the final cover, you did well! I have to say that the E’s look kinda weird but the cover might not look better if you made them look normal though. That’s

  11. I like the new cover. It is magical. My experience has been with Reedsy and Fiverr. The continuing issue I have is with Amazon. Getting their specifics has been a challenge for the print version. I’m not sure if I will have to replace the cover of After the Tears Dry when I come out with the audiobook.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      This is one reason I really like hiring a professional. Not having to figure out the technical specs is the best. They just send me a pdf that uploads every time.

  12. Colleen F Janik says

    I do love your new cover. The original one was nice also but appeared to fit more into the romance genre.
    i love the idea of saving favorite book cover art. The one that stands out in my mind is, “Time Traveler’s Wife.” That one is so memorable. Would love to see a list, even a short list of your favorites!

  13. Gary Townsend says

    The copy I bought (in July 2021) has the old cover, so comparing the new with the old side-by-side was interesting. The newer one, in my opinion, has obvious advantages over the old:

    (1) The old lacks focus, although it does take advantage of some design elements. The focus is clearly on the person on the cover, because he is so prominent, and the line of the sword draws the viewer’s eye up to the castle. But that’s where it starts to lose its focus. This leads the eye off the page and not down to the title and byline. The newer one draws the eye straight to the portal first and the castle in the background, then the size of the title pulls the eye downward, then down again to the byline. The last element the eye goes to is the question at the top. This creates a kind of “visual loop,” you could say, so that the eye then goes back down the cover again. The original cover has too many lines pointing in too many directions (one of the cover figure’s arms points in a different direction to the title, which isn’t very prominent), which adds to the lack of focus.

    (2) In design, placement, alignment, and size play key roles in determining visual priority and organization for the viewer/reader. My description of eye movement (extremely important in design) created with the new cover describes exactly how the eye moves with the new cover, because there is a clear priority in the design. That greatly enhances its focus.

    I’ve some design experience, having studied and played with desktop publishing layout and design since the 1990s, so I’m not at all bothered with using Photoshop (which I’ve used since the ’90s as well). I’ve also studied web design for a long, long time (back when Adobe’s web design application was PageMill — cringe! — instead of Dreamweaver). I even managed to get myself a degree in web design (graduated Cum Laude, missing Magna Cum Laude by 0.019 — bloody biology class! ugh! LOL).

    I’m always paying attention to cover design, so that probably helps with my own feeble attempts, although I received great compliments from my college professors for the book and magazine covers I created for various assignments. For one assignment, we had to read a short story, then create a cover based on it. That was fun! I used a design schema — the Cat’s Cradle — for the layout of the cover, and it absolutely worked! and greatly helped to communicate the quirkiness of the story itself. (The Cat’s Cradle looks like a chaotic mess, yet when used wisely it keeps a design from looking from looking too static. The Cradle had some prominence in design after the Gutenberg Press came into being.) I even made the color of a major element on the short story cover match with something prominent in the story itself. The instructor of that class was a graduate of RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) and also was responsible for a major redesign of the Copyright Office’s web site and publications. Some of his work is still visible on that site even today.

    I’ve also studied photography; there is much in that art form that crosses over into design, too.

    In my opinion, one major problem with too many self-pubbed books is the author’s name is not prominent enough.

    • Gary Townsend says

      Personally, I write fantasy that is more historical, although I sometimes think it is hard to quantify where my stories lie. They’re not very gothic, so they’re not exactly Gaslamp (although my stories do tend to fall within the Victorian Era). I love Weird Westerns — also in the Victorian Era, but definitly *not* Gaslamp, either. Thankfully, Weird Westerns are their own genre. I love Steampunk (also in the Victorian Era), but that’s SF not fantasy.
      My current WIP is a fantasy set in the US Civil War, but I do not want to classify its genre that way. So, I am stuck with … historical fantasy.
      My point here is that the covers I see for the overwhelming majority of historical fantasies just do not work for me or my story. The closest I have found are two books by Eric Scott Fischl. Namely, these—
      And I absolutely *LOVE* those covers!

      • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

        I like the Medicine Show one especially!

        • Gary Townsend says

          I prefer the Medicine Show cover, too! It seems/feels far more apropos for the kind of story I am writing, except that it does seem a skosh more Wild West than Civil War. It’s just missing that particular aspect of my story.

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